Test Cutting Rattan Shield

This Forum is a place for students of swordsmanship to ask advice from moderators Paul Champagne & Scott M. Rodell on how to practice test cutting in a manner consistent with how swords were historically used in combat. Readers use this Forum at their own risk.

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Test Cutting Rattan Shield

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Jun 18, 2010 10:13 am

Much of the test cutting practice (shi zhan) we do is designed to help us correct or prefect our technique. While cutting bamboo & rice straw mats is quite valuable it is not the complete picture when it comes to historical swordsmanship. After all, these targets are held firmly in place to allow for a clean cut. Targets in combat would be moving, defecting, withdrawing, yielding & so forth. They would also often be armored in various ways. In a typical engagement, one could not have expected nice clean cuts. In order to get a clear sense of cutting was like in Qing period combat we have to also test cut into realistic targets that are not held so firmly in place.

While I was in Netherlands last month, I had the very special opportunity to test cut on a tengpai (rattan shield) as a target. This shield was a modern reproduction made by Peter Dekker. I've had the opportunity to handle several antique Qing tengpai & found Peter's to be essentially the same in construction & materials. One difference between Peter's tengpai & the old ones is that during the Qing, tengpai were soaked in teng oil for a year. This presumable hardened them & made them generally more durable. So we must take that into consideration when thinking about the results of this test.

The target shield was set up on an archery target stand, that rocked a bit when I struck the shield. The sword I used was a Huanuo Round Grip Battle Dao, which has a willow leaf blade.
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1st Step- Test Cutting Rattan Shield

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Jun 18, 2010 10:28 am

The first test cuts were to see how durable the shield face was. I started with a light pi cut & each time stuck with more force. In all it took 3 strikes before the surface began to give way & 6 to really break it. Keep in mind that all 6 blows were delivered to the same spot on the shield. It should also be noted that the bands of rattan on this shield are not stack so that they overlay, which they do on QIng period tengpai.
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Result of 1st Cut to Rattan Shield

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Jun 18, 2010 10:34 am

The result of the first cut...
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Result of 2nd Cut to Rattan Shield

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Jun 18, 2010 10:35 am

Result of 2nd Cut to the Rattan Shield...
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Result of 3rdt Cut to Rattan Shield

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Jun 18, 2010 10:36 am

The 3rd pi cut to the shield collapsed the surface.
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Close-up of the Result of 3rd Cut to Rattan Shield

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Jun 18, 2010 10:39 am

As you can see, the surface began to give...
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3 More Solid Hits to the Shield

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Jun 18, 2010 10:41 am

After 3 more full power pi cuts, the shield surface was broken...
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Test Cutting to the Shield's Edge

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Jun 18, 2010 10:55 am

Next I tested the tengpai's leading edge with a full power, horizontal shan cut...
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Result of Test Cutting to the Shield's Edge

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Jun 18, 2010 11:01 am

I was surprised at how deeply I was able to cut into the shield's leading edge, about 12 cm. I was able to repeatedly cut this deep whether employing shan or pi cuts, even cutting into the stand. However, these cuts were not deep enough to threaten the hand if it one had been gripping the shield. Peter & I discussed this & wonder whether soaking the shield a year in oil, as was done during the Qing, would have toughed the fibers enough to have prevented my cutting so deeply?
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Cutting to the Rear Edge of the Shield

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Jun 18, 2010 11:03 am

Next I cut into the rear edge of the shield from an angle that I would face the shield if it were being held by a duifang.
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Result of Cutting to the Rear Edge of the Shield

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Jun 18, 2010 11:04 am

Cuts toward the rear edge did little damage to the shield...
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Cutting Upward into the Shield

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Jun 18, 2010 11:06 am

The last test cuts I preformed to the shield were full power upward cuts...
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Thrusting into the Shield

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Jun 18, 2010 11:12 am

The upward cuts did little damage to the shield, the last test was thrust with the dao...
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Result of Thrusting into the Shield

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Jun 18, 2010 11:14 am

The tip of the dao penetrated the shield face, but not enough to threaten anyone who would have been holding it, but enough that it might very well have gotten stuck...
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The End Result of Test Cutting the Shield

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Jun 18, 2010 11:19 am

After I was done doing my best to cut the tengpai apart, Peter Dekker, took his turn carving it up. The end result was, though badly damaged, it could still have functioned to protect a man on the battlefield. But we did come to the conclusion that a single battle would be about all a rattan shield could be expected to last.

Peter Dekker with his tengpai after our cutting -
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